“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine.” So goes the first line of Austen’s semi-satire of the old Gothic novel tradition. We follow Catherine as she goes off on her first “adventure” and manages to muddle a lot of her life by trying to relate too much to Udolpho and other Gothic novels. And of course, we also follow her as she falls in love.
Remember back in the spring, when I said I thought five chances were enough for Jane Austen and that I was giving up this book only a few chapters in? Well, I think I was suffering from major Austen burnout. For those of you who love Austen with a passion, you probably won’t understand this, but if I am exposed to her too often, I find her repetitive, monotonous, dry, and boring. When I first started reading her, I set out to read one novel per year, which felt like a sensible plan for me. There are several authors that I tend to read only on a yearly basis because too much exposure to them affects me in one way or another. Austen is one of them, but with joining a Jane Austen Book Club, I ended up reading a lot of her novels (plus modern sequels) very quickly, far quicker than I would have on my own. I think I just needed more space before I attempted Northanger Abbey.
I’ve long suspected this would be the Austen novel I’d like best. It’s different from the others, and I like the humor in it. I decided to give it a second chance right now solely because my Jane Austen Book Club is reading The Jane Austen Book Club for our January selection. I read that book back in 2008, when I’d only read one Austen book (Persuasion) and seen two movies (S&S, P&P). I knew I wanted to reread it after reading all six books. Hence, my giving NA another chance.
I’m glad I did, because this time around, I had great fun with the novel. It didn’t feel boring or dry at all to me, which proves to me that I was suffering from burnout! It probably ties with Pride & Prejudice as being my top favorite Austen novels. I loved all the pokes at Gothic novels, especially after having read some of them. My particular favorite is when John Thorpe starts talking about how novels like The Monk were the only kind he would read because they had substance in them. Ha! The Thorpes were amusing in general, and completely obnoxious, but I like that Austen downplayed the repetitive-joke humor that exists in most of her novels. I never felt like the jokes were repeated too often here.
Over all, it was a very fun experience, and I’m glad to have now made my way through the six Austen novels!